Tag Archives: music

Passion

Last week I was chatting with my friend M and she mentioned that she didn’t care for Weird Al. This was in response to another person saying that if someone didn’t like Weird Al, they could GTFO (essentially).

I can appreciate that desire to have everyone around you like the things you like, but I find life is so much more interesting and rich to surround myself with people who are interested and passionate about things that I am not. This was basically the toast I gave at my brother’s wedding.

super space titan kitty

I told my brother and his wife that passion is important in a marriage, but we often think of passion as the feeling between two people and leave it at that. I encouraged them to maintain their passions and interests in things outside each other, because that would keep their relationship fresh and interesting. When I go along for the ride with a friend’s passion, I get to experience something I never would have otherwise.

One of my brother’s passions is music. It is a touch point that connects us. I was a teenager when Tipper Gore founded the Parental Music Resource Center (PMRC), to label albums with explicit lyrics. It was rooted in her horror at discovering her 13-year old daughter was listening to a Prince song that talked about masturbation. The intention of PMRC was to raise awareness for parents about the music their children were listening to, it also made my local music store restrict the age of customers who could purchase those albums. When I was 18, I went to Specs with my brother so we could purchase the Guns N Roses album, Appetite for Destruction. We went up to the register where my brother handed me the album and the money. I passed them to the clerk, who rang it up and then gave me the album and the change, which I returned to my brother.

Fast forward a decade, and I’m now living in Seattle. My brother has graduated college as well and is living on the west coast. His favorite band, the Beastie Boys, is doing a west coast tour and he and a few friends decide to follow them for a few shows. He stops in Seattle for one of them.

I love telling this story, because it was an epic event. The concert is held in an arena (at the Seattle Center for those who know it), and the show is staged “in the round.” The stage is in the center of the floor and spins, like a lazy susan. The crowd completely surrounds the stage, separated from the performers by a 6 or 7 foot security moat. We sit up in the stands and can watch all the action on the floor. We see a few circles in the crowd where people are moshing, and it’s amazing to watch the energy ripple and flow through the crowd.

Every so often someone tries to breach the security moat and get on the stage, but they are dragged down by the security folks. UNTIL one guy does it. The band is performing the song “Sure Shot” and this guy somehow pops up on the stage! He whips out a throwaway instant camera and while being chased by security, he stops and snaps a selfie with at least two of the band members. Just as it seems security is going to nab him, he runs to the edge of the stage and LEAPS OFF, clearing the moat and falling into the crowd, who catch him and swallow him up. The crowd roars for their hero and the security folks are probably telling the story to this day, not to mention my brother and I like to share this memory and revisit it. I just had to ask him what the song was, as a matter of fact, since I couldn’t tell you a single one they performed.

A couple years ago, the musical Hamilton hit the zeitgeist. I heard friends raving about it online and sought it out. My brother remained clueless about this one, until his daughter brought it to his attention, and he became a fan. I love this thread connecting us through time and space, and seeing his daughter picking up the tradition thrills me.

Sometimes other people’s passions become integrated into my own spheres, but often they are something I enjoy vicariously. It adds color and dimension to my life, sometimes turns my brain inside-out and makes me think about things in different ways, and always challenges me to give something a try. Except shrimp. Sorry Mom, I still hate shrimp.

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Favorites

Last week a friend of mine asked me what my favorite song was. I have to admit, I’m not much of an audiophile. I enjoy music mostly as a sensory experience, and if it doesn’t sound pleasant, I tend not to like it much. There aren’t many songs where I listen to the lyrics, too. So when he asked me that question, I had to go with “Long Road/Long Ride Home” by Patty Griffin (I’m not sure what the actual title is; I’ve seen both).

car lights

I started to tell him the story in the song, about a man whose wife has died and he is thinking back about their marriage. It’s this verse that gets me:

Forty years go by with someone laying in your bed
Forty years of things you say you wish you’d never said
How hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead
I wonder as I stare up at the sky turning red

I love this song because it makes me feel something deeply, and there isn’t a lot of music that does that for me. Also, I feel grateful that my relationship isn’t full of regret, like the person in this story.

You can go listen to the song here.

What songs do you love?

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Teenage Pals

heart graffito

My friend Karina asked me today, “Who were your teenage pals?” She was referring not to the actual people I hung out with, but rather the authors and musicians who threw me a rope and created a bridge that let me walk from there to here. The names on her list included Dorothy Allison, Rita Mae Brown, and the Indigo Girls.

The Indigo Girls’ second album, eponymously titled, was given to me as a gift upon graduating from high school. It was a bookend, as it were, to the end of one time period and the beginning of another. And that album has become a talisman and a touchstone for me. I spent the summer drinking it in, sweating in the heat of SW Florida and wondering what ghosts had to do with anything. I wondered if I would ever go “all the way to Paris, to forget your face” … and failing, just like Emily did.

“I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper, and I was free.” Funny thing was, in my town, the Indigo Girls weren’t on the radio, but when I got to college, it was practically a requirement that every student at Oberlin have this playing on their cassette deck. And here I am, 20 years later, learning again and again:

There’s more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

I didn’t come out a bi until I was a sophomore in college, and queer literature was a ways off from my young, teen mind. I started with Judy Blume, working my way through her oeuvre, but stopping abruptly at Fifteen. I never crossed that line and to this day still have never read that, nor Wifie or Forever. But as I navigated middle school, I learned I wasn’t the only girl worried about when she would get her period and be just like every other girl. I loved that her stories had girls I could relate to, Jewish characters, and people who just seemed real.

As I entered high school, I began to read more science fiction and fantasy. Piers Anthony’s Xanth books provided comic relief, while his Blue Adept showcased a classic underdog. I had a friend who was a BIG fan of Stephen King, so I read many of his books, terrifying myself half out of my wits. I still remember noticing every sneeze and sniffle while I was reading The Stand, which I think was his best.

Like Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle ushered me through the early teen years. I instantly fell in love with Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, a smart girl who adored her family. And even though I probably first read that book when I was about 10, I revisited the Time Trilogy throughout my teen years. Being smart and a girl was a difficult combination, and here was proof of others like me. I devoured all L’Engle’s books, including the journals she wrote later in life. They were like tiny lighthouses on a farther shore, just visible enough that I could orient myself.

And finally there was Ursula LeGuin. It was in her book, The Dispossessed, that I first learned about anarcho-syndicalism. I wrote an essay for the Optimist Club on “Freedom: Our Most Precious Heritage”, and it won second place. The conclusion I drew was that a completely free society would be totally anarchic. And I know somewhere in there I mentioned that women did not earn equal pay to men. I only mention this because as a winner, I had to read my essay to the Optimists – and the only women in the room that day were my mother, my teacher, and the mothers of the two other students who had won. I didn’t realize what I said until later, and then I was glad. And terrified.

I was thinking more about music, but music has never been central to me the way words have been. And then I remembered one more thing. My twin sister and I shared a bedroom, and one night a week we would listen to a call-in radio show with a psychologist. I can’t remember his name, but we used to listen to the show in the dark and comment on his advice. I’m not sure it was formative in the way that those books were, but there was something indefinable about it, as we formed our own characters from that inchoate darkness.

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Hallelujah

Icicle and red globe

I think most of you know that I’m not Christian, which means I do not celebrate Christmas – or at least, not in the way most Christians do. At the beginning of the month I attended a mass wedding where 25 same-sex couples got married. And they sang the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. I tend to just tune out and not pay attention to the words when anything related to Jesus comes up. For some reason, when they sang He shall reign I replaced He with love in my mind, and I just loved it so much. So I thought I’d play around with the rest of the lyrics that specifically referenced a deity and here’s what I came up with. Wishing you all light and love in the coming year.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the [LIGHT OF LOVE] [LIGHT OF LOVE] reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the [LIGHT OF LOVE] [LIGHT OF LOVE] reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our [LOVE],
And of [THE LIGHT], and of [THE LIGHT];
And [LOVE] shall reign for ever and ever,

For ever and ever, forever and ever,
[LIGHT OF LOVE], and [LOVE OF LOVES],
[LIGHT OF LOVE], and [LOVE OF LOVES,
And [LOVE OF LOVES,]
And [LOVE] shall reign,
And [LOVE] shall reign forever and ever,
[LIGHT OF LIGHTS], forever and ever,
And [LOVE OF LOVES,],
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And [LOVE] shall reign forever and ever,
[LIGHT OF LOVE]! and [LOVE OF LOVES],!
And [LOVE] shall reign forever and ever,
[LIGHT OF LOVE]! and [LOVE OF LOVES]!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!

Original lyrics for quick reference

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